Meditations on Sleep and Cyclicality

Jitish Kallat, the book.
This is an essay very dear to me, written at a time when I was attuned to life and the world in a different way; a way less linear, flat, logical, rational than the one that has dominated my life since I embarked on the project of doing The Idea. Make no mistake, authors pay a very real, living price for the mental ethos they have to put themselves in in order to carry out their work. But I digress. The point here is that I will be presenting this essay to you in a very unusual format, but for a good reason...

First, let me tell you the background story. A little over three years ago, a friend of mine, Jitish Kallat, perhaps one of the most important artists of my generation, asked me to contribute a piece to a book that was being prepared about his work. I love Jitish's work. He has an extraordinary sensibility for the metaphysical backdrop of life and world, an ability to capture it with a subtlety that eludes most of us. His work reflects life and world back to us in a way that unveils what he sees, but we don't. And so I enthusiastically agreed to contribute something.

Soon enough, however, I realized the magnitude of the challenge I had embarked on. To provide prose to accompany Jitish's work was a tall order. My usual Apollonian approach wouldn't do his art justice. I ruminated on the task for days, until one rainy morning, as my girlfriend still lay asleep, I sensed that I was in the right mental space... an elusive space I don't visit often, but which I value above almost any other. What you will read below is the result.

The production of Jitish's book is a gem of refinement, care, aesthetic sensibility and attention to detail. It would be a crime to reproduce my essay here outside the context of the book. So, with Jitish's kind permission, I made photos of the relevant pages, which I am reproducing below. To read the text you will need to click on each photo to enlarge it.

I hope you enjoy the ride! And if you weren't acquainted with Jitish's work before, here is your cue...

(For more on the themes explored in the essay above, see my book More Than Allegory, where these themes are elaborated on with much more depth and detail.)

GUEST ESSAY: Reality is a hyperdream

By Jason Barr

(This is a guest essay submitted to the Metaphysical Speculations Discussion Forum, reviewed and commented on by forum members. The opinions expressed in the essay are those of its author. For my own views on the subject of this essay, see my book The Idea of the World.)

Does reality 'seem' mental?

I understand that this might raise more questions than it answers. However, it is important to know that reality does in fact appear mental, even though it is a common criticism that "reality obviously does not seem mental, look at me kick this rock!" A good analogy to understand the plausibility of reality being mental is dreams, so you can look upon reality as a 'hyperdream.'

Reality while asleep? These are dreams constructed mentally from emergent unstable minds and reality while awake is a hyperdream, which is more vivid and consistent while being constructed mentally from a fundamental stable mind. Philosopher Erik Haynes:
This philosophy argues for a unified consciousness at the core of reality. Humans are primarily conscious beings (or souls) with a tangible sense of reality provided by, and connected through, God's consciousness. This can be compared to the way in which the dream world seems to incorporate everything that reality does yet one would not say that the dream world contains matter since dreams exist completely in the mind. Since the mind is capable of producing a tangible reality in the dream world, then how much more so would God's mind be capable of creating a tangible reality for His creation?
The category of mentality, or 'consciousness,' is all that is needed to explain reality. We know that this category of being has to exist and even honest physicalists ('materialists') admit this. Neuroscientist Sam Harris:
Consciousness is the one thing in the universe that can’t be an illusion. Consciousness is the fact of experience, the fact that something is happening, the fact that the 'lights are on' in some basic sense even if we don't understand anything. So even if I'm a brain in a vat, what I'm calling consciousness is still a manifest fact of reality, and is the basis for every other fact.
In other words, we only believe objects exist because we are conscious of them. We only know things because of mentality. You cannot doubt it because even doubt is mental. You really cannot get 'behind' mentality.

Reality can be explained just as well with less explanatorily useless postulates, as there is no need for a reality beyond the category of mentality. Also, philosophical problems dissolve, such as the hard problem of consciousness that the physicalist has to deal with, and the interaction problem that the substance dualist has to deal with.

The category of non-mentality (or, a 'reality beyond consciousness') is therefore explanatorily superfluous and one of the biggest violations of Occam’s Razor I have encountered. It should, in my opinion, be tossed in the graveyard with the aether and Russell’s tea pot, even if it cannot be 'disproven' with absolute certainty. Leo Gura:
Notice that in your sleeping dreams, they have narrative arcs, they are always story based; it's always a sequence of events that happened to you just like ordinary life (in a spatiotemporal reality, controlling a body, interacting with objects etc.). Doesn’t that make you suspicious about ordinary life? Are you noticing all these similarities? This should make you very suspicious.
The fallacy made by the vast majority of people in the world is confusing differences in degree with a difference in kind. The degrees of vividness and consistency are higher pertaining to waking reality, but that does not magically make waking reality non-mental. In fact, what it most likely means is that waking reality is a more vivid and consistent dream that we all share from different perspectives... Simple.

In conclusion, reality clearly does appear mental. It seems precisely to be a more vivid and consistent dream that we experience from our own first-person reference points.

Copyright © 2019 by Jason Barr. Published with permission.